MODSIT, USAID conduct Public-Private Dialogue on ‘Integrating into Global Trade’

Wednesday, 19 June 2019 00:28 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Ministry of Development Strategies (MoDSIT) together with the USAID-SAIL project hosted a Public-Private Dialogue (PPD) on Global Trade on Wednesday 12 June at Hotel Taj Samudra in Colombo.

The event, titled, “Integrating into Global Trade – How can Sri Lanka maximise benefits and minimise risks?”, was the first in a series of district-level PPDs being held to increase the general awareness and understanding of trade, and to obtain the views of wider and more representative groups of stakeholders across the country.

The event was a huge success and generated vibrant debates and discussions among over 80 participants from Ministries, Government agencies, the business community, trade chambers, the private sector and other key stakeholders.

Gracing the occasion were Chief Guest Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade (MODSIT) Malik Samarawickrama, Guest of Honour, USAID Economic Growth Office Director Brian Wittnebel, MODSIT Secretary S.T. Kodikara and USAID-SAIL Project Chief of Party Glenn Mackenzie-Frazer.

Delivering the keynote address, Minister Samarawickrama stated, “International trade is a priority area of our Government and, as you know, our Ministry has been a catalyst for many trade reforms over the past few years.” 

“Sri Lanka had turned its back on integrating with the global economy and had become less and less open to international trade prior to 2015. Since we came into office, we have taken a multi-pronged approach to change that, as we believe it is trade and FDI that can transform this country by creating good jobs.”

“We have a New Trade Policy, which resets our economic orientation towards trade, and provides the roadmap for reforms in this area. We also have a National Export Strategy that aims at diversifying our export basket that had remained stagnant for two decades, and focuses our attention on six priority sectors and four trade support functions.”

“We have embarked on a path of cutting para-tariffs within three years; and already more than 1,200 items have been done. In Parliament last year we passed long overdue trade remedy legislations that provide protection to our enterprises against unfair competition and undue pressure from imports.”

“We have done new FTAs, like the landmark one with Singapore, and several more - with India, China and Thailand - in the pipeline. And finally, we have the new Trade Adjustment Program that was approved last month, and the Trade and Productivity Commission that was approved just last week.”

Minister Samarawickrama had a special message for the private sector. “The economy has to be driven by the private sector, and that too by a private sector that is willing and able to compete internationally. We are a small domestic market, and we have no option but to integrate strongly with the global economy. But of course, we want to be sure to give our industry, our private sector, the best possible chance to succeed, by providing the right policy environment, strategies, supportive programs and instruments, and timely information,” he said.

“All these initiatives are aimed at reorienting our economy to be more trade-driven, and integrating more with the global economy. Let’s be clear and pragmatic – this is the only way to usher in prosperity for our country and create more and better jobs. The Government cannot create jobs, we cannot keep using debt-fuelled public investment to generate growth. Anyone who tells you otherwise is misleading you,” the Minister concluded.

USAID launched the four-year SAIL project in October 2016 to support economic reforms and promote Foreign Direct Investment in Sri Lanka.  SAIL provides policy and institutional support to improve the business enabling environment and promote investment in Sri Lanka.

One of SAIL’s focus areas is to support Sri Lanka’s processes of trade integration and facilitation, including support to the Free Trade Agreement process. Trade plays a key role in increasing Sri Lanka’s growth, and an export-oriented strategy is important in achieving this goal.

“The US-Sri Lanka development and humanitarian assistance dates back to 1956.  Since then the US Government’s development agency, the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, has invested more than Rs. 320 billion ($2 billion) in grant aid, not loans,“ noted Guest of Honour Brian Wittnebel.

“This assistance has benefitted Sri Lankans across the country and in diverse fields like agriculture, environment and natural resources, infrastructure, business development, health, education, governance and humanitarian assistance.”

“Initiatives such as this Public-Private Dialogue are vital in creating awareness on how trade, tariff policies, and other trade instruments can be combined with market access opportunities already available to Sri Lanka. Such initiatives also demonstrate the Government of Sri Lanka’s commitment to transparency and to the broader aim of seeking feedback from the private sector,” added Wittnebel.

The resource personnel at the event were led by USAID-SAIL Trade Expert Dr. Sanath Jayanetti, who spoke on ‘Opportunities, Costs and Benefits of Trade Arrangements’. He was followed by Department of Import and Export Control Assistant Controller Kasun Fernando on ‘Import and Export Control Law and Expected Amendments’.

Department of Commerce Deputy Director Ruwanthie Ariyaratne spoke on ‘Safeguarding Interests of People – Trade Remedies (Antidumping, Countervailing and Safeguards)’, and elaborated on the new ‘Trade Information Portal’. Department of Customs Deputy Director Priyantha Saparamadu dealt with ‘New Initiatives at Customs’ and Registrar of Companies Assistant Registrar Heshan Mathugamage explained the progress of ‘EROC (e-Registration of Companies) Project’ and his role as the Official Receiver. Each presentation was followed by a Q&A session.